By Eileen Fielder
Nassau, Bahamas – Family dysfunction gives rise to many persistent societal problems across the globe, including the Bahamas. Distinguished Bahamian psychiatrist and public health expert Dr David Allen saw the urgent need to address prevailing social fragmentation through free community therapy groups.
With a grant from the Templeton World Charity Foundation, founded by the late financier and philanthropist, Sir John Templeton, Dr Allen initiated a pilot program, “The Family: People Helping People” to examine the effectiveness of his approach.According to Dr. David Allen, the preliminary research study shows that “The Family: People Helping People” project promotes re-socialization by developing anger management and conflict resolution, increasing self esteem, gratitude, contentment and forgiveness, while decreasing shame, depression, revenge and abusive relationships.
The results of the pilot study have been validated by Dr. James Jekel of Yale University and Dr James Manganello of Harvard School of Public Health.
According to Dr Allen, “Given the current and growing societal fragmentation in The Bahamas, we must develop pertinent, faith-based interventions in our hurting, marginalized communities. There must be community-wide collaboration to stem the flood tide of anger and violence that is taking a serious toll on Bahamian society, particularly in terms of the growing rate of domestic abuse, child abuse and murder. We are losing too many good people to preventable deaths and destruction. We must stand with hurting people in their pain, producing authentic bonds of kinship which I call ‘Family.’ Out of these relationships come deep compassion producing healing and re-socialization.
As Sir John Templeton said, ‘Change your mind, change your world.’”Since 2008 Dr Allen has personally run free community groups integrating spirituality, psychology, and his own creative approach to group dynamics out of which his therapeutic theory developed. These groups dealt with re-socialization, interpersonal skills, self-esteem enhancement, anger management and conflict resolution, revenge elimination, community bonding, affective learning, and the development of mature spirituality.
To produce research on Allen’s approach which yields useful, replicable data and measurable impact on participants requires a significant commitment in terms of time and funds. Dr Allen was willing, to the extent of his available resources, to provide both. “The Family” project was launched with personal financing by Dr Allen and run with assistance from mental health and counselling professionals on a volunteer basis. Religious groups which supported the initiative lent space for meetings. Templeton World Charity Foundation stepped in to fund a rigorous scholarly evaluation of ‘The Family” project.
Based on the results of the pilot project, TWCF has awarded a second grant for a full three-year research project to expand the program and to study its impact on Bahamian re-socialization. According to Dr Allen, “The Templeton World Charity Foundation has provided a three-year grant which will allow us to:
1) expand the clinical outreach of The Family,
2) continue research to evaluate the effectiveness of The Family in the community,
3) develop an international instrument to assess re-socialization and
4) develop a training program for therapist facilitators to further expand The Family outreach.”
According to Betty A. Roberts, FCIB, Chief Executive Officer, First Trust Bank Limited and spokesperson for Templeton World Charity Foundation: “We have seen the positive developments sparked by Dr Allen’s Family program. We consider the grant to be an excellent investment in healing Bahamian society, for which there is great need in this period. We would like now to do all possible to spread the impact of the ground-breaking initiative. Consequently, we are encouraging other community-minded corporate entities and individuals to become financial partners in this effort. We wish also to continue to make the general public aware of the help available through the program.”
With the new funding, the project has switched into high gear, supported by a highly qualified team of professionals organized by Dr Allen. Using qualified therapists “The Family” has now expanded to provide free group therapy sessions for adults and adolescents throughout New Providence. Free individual therapy for persons who would not otherwise be able to afford it is available by appointment at the City Central Community Centre on Baillou Hill Rd. Monday through Friday.
Family group sessions have now started in the follow areas:
(1) Simpson Penn Centre for Boys (adolescents)
(2) Willie Mae Pratt Centre for Girls (adolescents)
(3) Fox Hill at the Archie Carey Community Centre on Monday 5:30 – 7pm
(4) Kemp Road at St. Margaret’s Church on Monday 6:30 – 8pm
(5) Nassau Village at Who So Ever Will Church on Monday 4 – 6pm
(6) Pinewood at Missionary Fellowship Baptist Church on Tuesday 6– 8pm
(7) Carmichael Rd. at Remnant Tabernacle on Tuesday 6 – 8pm
(8) Englerston opposite the Ridgeland Mall, above G&M store on Tuesday 6:30– 8pm
(9) Centreville & St. Cecila at City Central, Baillou Hill Rd. on Tuesday 4 – 6pm
(10)Temperament anger management group at City Central, Baillou Hill Rd. on Tuesday 6 -7:30pm
(11) Bain & Grants Town (and other areas) at City Central, Baillou Hill Rd. on Wednesday 4 – 6pm (adolescents and adult family separate).
(12) Fort Charlotte at St. Michael’s Church on Thursday 6 – 8pm
(13) Coral Harbour/Gambier/Adelaide at New Providence Community Center (NPCC) Blake Rd. on Thursday 6 – 8pm.
Family groups have also started in Grand Bahama and Abaco:Freeport, Grand Bahama at the YMCA on Thursday 5:30 – 7pm. Green Turtle Cay, Abaco at Administrator’s Office on Saturday 7– 8:30pm.In addition to the development of new meeting locations, “The Family” project has started a therapist facilitator training program for 40 participants including pastors, social workers, urban renewal staff and concerned citizens. Those who complete the course will obtain a certificate as Therapist Facilitator to help expand “The Family” groups throughout the Bahamas.
Dr. Allen said, “We have been blessed by the wonderful partnership of the Templeton World Charity Foundation. The generous support of the Foundation has made our progress thus far possible. We need to increase community participation, however, in terms of financial support. The community is the matrix for the ills of our society, so improvement will require community-wide input.”
Assisted by colleagues Mallery G. Mayo, PhD, Marie Carroll, PhD and his wife Victoria Allen, PhD, Dr Allen has described his innovative therapeutic approach in an academic paper “Cultivating Gratitude: Allen’s Contemplative Discovery Pathway Theory Applied to Group Therapy in the Bahamas” which is currently being peer reviewed for publication. Dr. Allen presents his faith-based psychotherapy in four books (In Search of the Heart, Shattering the God’s Within, Contemplation, Shame).
Individuals and corporate groups wishing to take part in “The Family” initiative or to obtain Dr. Allen’s publications may contact Dr. David Allen at 676-8619 or 327-8718/9 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“The Templeton World Charitable Foundation is one of three Foundations organized by the late Sir John Templeton to serve as a philanthropic catalyst for discoveries related to the Big Questions of Human Purpose and Ultimate Reality. Unsolicited Grant Requests are not accepted by the Foundation.”